Pound the pavement or power walk? Let’s lace up our shoes to see how they will suit your health goals and benefit your well-being…
When it comes to health, both walking and running are great for body and mind. It is recommended to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity during the week or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.
Walking at a brisk pace, or going for a jog, are activities that can help you to meet this target. Plus, the bonus of choosing walking or running as your go-to workout is that they’re cheap – even free! They can also be adapted to suit different levels of fitness.
If you’re still undecided about which one to commit to, then read on to see which suits you best.
Just getting outside for a walk in nature boosts emotional well-being. A daily dose of fresh air and time to clear your mind can ease work and home-related stress, and reduce feelings of anxiety. ‘Always opt to walk over driving where possible, and go for walks as often as you can, as this will make a big difference to both your physical and mental health,’ says physiotherapist Aisling O’Malley.
And, while walking may be slower than running, it can still burn calories. ‘Not only does walking give you a cardiovascular workout – good for the heart and lungs, but it also helps you to strengthen the main muscles of your lower limbs and aids in maintaining healthy bone density,’ says Aisling.
How much should you walk?
You don’t need to hike for miles to feel the benefits. Research shows that just 10 minutes of brisk walking a day for a week reduces the risk of early death by 15%. Another study from the University of Exeter found that a short, brisk walk helped people reduce their intake of high-calorie snack foods by half, contributing to weight loss when a walking habit is maintained over time.
If you want to ramp up the weight-loss effects of walking, increase your speed or vary the gradient. ‘If you’re trying to hit your moderate-intensity aerobic target, that means you can hold a conversation while walking, but have an increased rate and depth of breathing,’ says Aisling. ‘If you’re going for a brisk walk to meet the vigorous-intensity target, walk as if you’re late for an important meeting, so a more purposeful stride.’
Aim to reach 60–70% of your maximum heart rate. Subtract your age from the number 220 to work out your maximum heart rate. Check your heart rate on the go with a fitness tracker.
‘Running increases your cardio fitness, strengthens and tones your legs, tum and bum, and builds strong bones,’ says Steven Virtue, a fitness programming manager.
Running also releases powerful feel-good endorphins – known as the ’runner’s high’. Research shows that running for 30 minutes, three times a week, over several months could have mood-boosting effects and help to alleviate symptoms of depression.
How often should you run?
‘Start running three times a week, but be prepared to slow down or walk if you’re just starting out,’ says running coach Nick Anderson. If you’re a real beginner, alternate walking with running for 30 minutes. It’s a good way to start running and eventually to build-up to doing a 5 km run.
Try a walk-run strategy of running for one minute and then walking for four minutes. This may seem slow at first, but it’s a proven way to slowly build strength and endurance while avoiding an injury.
Already a keen runner? Researchers at the University of South Carolina in the US also found that clocking up 32 km per week could help you live longer.
Both walking and running offer gains, depending on your health goals. Incorporate either into your weekly routine and you’ll notice positive physical changes fairly quickly.
The benefits of running and walking include a leaner body, healthier weight and improved mobility. Long-term, you’ll also prevent the risk of developing serious health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, strokes and cancer. Aim to include a couple of runs a week, and a walk every day. Staying active is one of the best things you can do for your body and mind.
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